Essential Pantry Items You Should Always Have

It’s recommended that every household keep at least a three-day supply of food ready in case of emergency. Of course, emergencies aren’t very predictable, so your food supply should be made up of practical food staples with a long shelf life. Not only are these pantry essentials good in an emergency, but they are also great to have around when you haven’t had the chance to hit the grocery store or need quick and easy meals.


Pantry Essentials:

Dry Goods

Dried goods can easily be bought in bulk and last anywhere from six months to a year on the shelf if left unopened.

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Pasta
  • Oats
  • Lentils
  • Dry beans
  • Dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, apricots)
  • Cereal
  • Granola
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (chia, sunflower, hemp)
  • Un-popped popcorn
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes


Canned Goods

Canned goods are cheap, easy to store -- particularly if you have an oversized pantry with lots of space – and come in a wide variety of items from soup to fruit. 

  • Tomato sauce
  • Canned vegetables (peas, corn, green beans)
  • Canned fruit (peaches, pears, cherries, pineapple)
  • Beans (black, kidney, cannellini, garbanzo)
  • Soup stock (chicken, vegetable, beef)
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned chicken
  • Tomato paste
  • Canned soup (cream of mushroom and chicken are used in many recipes)
  • Olives
  • Pickles


Cooking Basics

Don’t forget these common items used in most cooking. You probably have most of them already on hand, but it’s always good to have extra.

  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil or canola oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley)
  • Garlic
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Red wine or balsamic vinegar


Refrigerator Staples:

In general, most of your emergency food supply should be goods that are safe kept at room temperature, but in the event you are stuck at home and still have power, here are a few good items to keep stocked in the fridge.

  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Plain yogurt
  • Hard cheese (parmesan, asiago, pecorino romano)
  • Tortillas
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Frozen vegetables (broccoli, peas, corn, edamame)
  • Frozen fruit (peaches, berries)
  • Ground beef
  • Chicken



  • While shelf life is key, make sure the foods you purchase are things you and your family like to eat.
  • Put dates on goods once you open them. We may think dried goods can stay good for months, but once you open an item you drastically cut down its shelf life. Dates are a good way to keep track of what might have become stale.
  • Put leftovers from canned goods into a separate, sealable container before storing in the fridge. Storing open cans in the fridge increases the risk of mold and bacteria growth.
  • Some fresh produce can last a week or more without refrigeration such as apples, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.


Once you have a few of these staples stocked in your kitchen, you’ll find that a little can go a long way. And next time you have an unexpected snow day or lose power, you’ll have some simple meals right at your fingertips.



Contributed to Your Home blog by Cory Olesen

Looking for more tips, ideas or inspiration? Return Home here.

Published 4.6.2020

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